- Family Dollar faces $330,446 in proposed fines following the death of an employee in Orlando, Florida, who tried to stop a shoplifter from escaping with store items, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced July 22.
- The employee struggled with the shoplifter but was unable to stop the shoplifter from leaving the store with merchandise, OSHA said. A short while later, the employee started feeling shortness of breath and began vomiting, according to a report from The Miami Herald. An assistant manager called 911, but the employee later died at the hospital from cardiac arrest, the report said. “Incidents such as this can be averted when workers are trained on a violence prevention program that empowers them to recognize and avoid risks on the job,” OSHA area director Sarah Carle said in the agency’s release.
- An investigation into the employee’s death uncovered multiple entrapment hazards, which led OSHA to propose fines against Family Dollar, the release said. Entrapment hazards are conditions that cause people to get trapped, caught, submerged or encumbered and unable to get free without assistance, a U.S. Department of Labor spokesperson explained in an email to HR Dive. They were not considered related to the employee’s death, the spokesperson said.
OSHA declined to provide details of what happened because the investigation is ongoing and within the contest period, the DOL spokesperson told HR Dive. But to reduce the likelihood of incidents happening, it’s critically important for employers to have a well-written workplace violence prevention program and effectively train workers, the spokesperson said.
In retail establishments, effective training includes training workers on proper procedures to follow in case of robbery and/or shoplifting, the spokesperson added.
OSHA also urged Family Dollar to provide a way for workers to request immediate assistance from the local police department or an alarm company in the event of a robbery or shoplifting incident, the announcement said.
Workplace violence is defined as “any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the worksite,” according to an OSHA fact sheet. Workplace violence can range from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicides and may involve employees, clients, customers and visitors.
OSHA addresses workplace violence issues through the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s general duty clause, which requires employers to provide a safe and healthful workplace. Employers that don’t take reasonable steps to prevent or stop a recognized violence hazard can be cited, the fact sheet states.
As a first step, employers should assess their workplaces for actual and potential violence hazards, according to OSHA. By conducting the assessment, employers can identify ways to reduce the likelihood that incidents of workplace violence will occur, the agency says.
To help employers pinpoint actual and potential issues, OSHA provides a checklist of prevention controls in its guidance for retail establishments. For example:
- Have workers been trained on how to handle difficult customers?
- Are workers trained on ways to prevent or defuse potentially violent situations?
- Does the workplace have panic buttons, alarm systems, an internal phone system to activity emergency assistance or phones with an outside line programmed to call 911?
- Are there enough exists and adequate routes of escape?
The multiple conditions OSHA’s inspection of the Orlando Family Dollar uncovered included blocked exits and aisles, the announcement said. In particular, OSHA cited the company for two repeat violations of failing to maintain an unobstructed pathway and allowing carts and merchandise boxes to block aisles. The agency also cited the company for a willful violation of keeping an emergency exit door locked with a single key held by management.